Their God is Dead

I love stories like this one. The staggering lack of self-awareness by our elites is breathtaking at times. A good bookend to that story is this one from earlier in the week. Put the two together and we have smart people holding all the same prejudices as everyone else, but acting on them in a covert way. That is unless they try to automate their decision making, then those prejudices come percolating up as the efficiency of the machine drops the pretense, signally and customs. The HAL9000 in question was just following the logic of its programming, which will always reflect the logic of its programmer.

I posted a comment on Marginal Revolution where I saw the story. The longer version starts with the understanding that all human societies have an organizing ethic. Religion has usually filled the role to one degree or another. The Greeks had a range of cults based on capricious gods. They also had philosophical schools that reinforced the generally accepted morality. Athens also had a civic ethic that was centered on the assembly. All of this reflected the general understanding, the beliefs, of what it meant to be a Greek and what it meant to be a good Greek. It also provided the enforcement mechanism to keep good Greeks in-line and exclude non-Greeks.

For 1500 years, European people relied upon Christianity to provide the framework of the organizing ethos of the people. The Catholic Church defined what it meant to be moral and elites of Europe particularized it to their time and place. In the 11th century, the life of the peasant, the merchant and the noble was the same across Europe. Language differences and minor customs were different, but the big stuff was the same. Civil society was organized along the same hierarchical lines as the Church. The elites were all devout Catholics and derived their identity from their faith.

That began to change in The 100 years War. National identity began to supplant religious identity. As is always the case, the ruling elites went first. By the end of the war, the idea of an English king of France or even part of France was absurd. The French could only be ruled by the French. The Thirty Years War brought this to the remainder of Europe. More important, national identity became the dominant organizing principle of the ruling elites in Europe for the next 400 years. The blood bath that was The 30 Years War convinced them that war over who defines the one true faith was madness. Christianity began to die in Europe, starting with the ruling classes. The new organizing faith was nationalism.

In America, Christianity remained a central component of the ruling class through the Civil War. If you read the propaganda of the Abolitionists, it is shot through with Christian appeals. The elites of the north truly believed they were on the side of God. The lyrics to the Battle Hymn of the Republic are a good example of the religious fanaticism behind the abolitionist movement. By the end of the war, no one with the IQ of a goldfish could believe they were on the side of angels. From that point on reformist Christianity ceased to be the central organizing tenet of the American ruling class.

Today, the organizing faith of America is what Jonah Goldberg labeled Liberal Fascism. It is a mix of cultural Marxism, managerial socialism and economic corporatism. The proper American is judged by his antagonism toward Christianity and nationalism. You see it with Obama. He is our first overtly non-Christian President. His attendance at the racist church in Chicago was a way to signal to his peers that he understood the impulses of the prols, but rejected their primitivism. His early rejection of American Exceptionalism was a nod toward the elite’s loathing of nationalism. Obama is the quintessential member of the ruling elite.

Of course, it animates the elite’s desire to reshape society. One of the strange aspects of America’s adoption of European socialism is how it is spiced with those old puritan and evangelical instincts. Our rulers live like Victorians and are always proselytizing about restraint. Mayor Bloomberg has made his final term about self-denial as a virtue. Then there is the evangelism. Like 17th century Puritans, our elites spend a lot of time making sure we are thinking the right thoughts. Bias is the witchcraft of the 21st century.

Thus I have circled back to the start of this post. The religion of our ruling elites is like all religions at all times. A big part of it is the claim that if we organize things the right way, conduct ourselves the right way, we will gain salvation from the human condition. Their belief they can purge themselves of tribal bias is as superstitious as believing elves and sprites occupy the forest or that demons take over young girls causing them to break the rules. The shock for the folks in the first story is that they were confronted with the fact they have been lying to themselves. God is not, in fact, on their side.

Danger: McNuggets Approaching

Stories like this are why Al Gore invented the Interwebs. In the olden times, this type of story would never get published, outside of some weird mailing list run by a dude living in a van down by the river. I guess maybe in the days of public access TV, these guys would get time or maybe on the weird local cable show. The internet makes it easy for these people to reach a wide audience. It probably encourages other nuts to start proselytizing, because the barrier of entry is low and they can easily gain an audience.

According to the “About Us” page:

The NaturalNews Network is a non-profit collection of public education websites covering topics that empower individuals to make positive changes in their health, environmental sensitivity, consumer choices and informed skepticism. The NaturalNews Network is owned and operated by Truth Publishing International, Ltd., a Taiwan corporation. It is not recognized as a 501(c)3 non-profit in the United States, but it operates without a profit incentive, and its key writer, Mike Adams, receives absolutely no payment for his time, articles or books other than reimbursement for items purchased in order to conduct product reviews.

The vast majority of our content is freely given away at no charge. We offer thousands of articles and dozens of downloadable reports and guides (like the Honest Food Guide) that are designed to educate and empower individuals, families and communities so that they may experience improved health, awareness and life fulfillment.

I’m sure the proprietor has good reason to base his company in Taiwan and I’m sure it has nothing to do with tax avoidance or FDA avoidance. The wild west of the food world is the “natural” food world. Go into a natural food shop and you will be told all sorts of nonsense about their products. I was once told by a clerk that drinking their mud potions would be good for my colon. Imagine that. They were trying to have me eat dirt. I suspect that’s the trick with all of their products. Make sure it is harmless, like eating dirt.

Food cults are nothing new and that’s what sites like NaturalNews exploit. The ancient Greeks had all sorts of food related rituals and beliefs and they passed them onto the Romans. I think Pythagoras was a vegan. The key element in all food cults is a low grade malevolence toward humanity. If man created or improved on it, it is ruled out of bounds by the cult. Organic food, which is often just a label, is a good example. People think those ten dollar bananas are better because the farmer eschews modern science.

Then there is the moral component. The point of joining a cult is to upgrade the identity of the cult member. The adherent trades their identity for that of the group because they think that’s better. Whole Foods shoppers are “saving the earth”, “leaving small foot prints” and otherwise being “socially conscious.” That’s why those grimy canvas sacks are so popular. They display the holder’s goodness. Vegetarians are the worst at this. They make sure to tell you they are a vegetarian within five minutes of meeting them.

Religion & IQ

For as long as I have been alive, the Left has been trying to “prove” they are the smartest kids in the room. One tactic is to attack religion and by extension the religious, who they naturally see as their enemy. This makes some sense, given that Progressivism is nothing but a poorly defined civic religion. Stuff like this is the sort of thing they like to wave around to prove they are super-smart.  I’ll assume the authors of this study are making a good faith effort, but 30-plus years of this act naturally makes me skeptical.

I’m not a particularly religious person so I don’t have a dog in the fight. I just think the Left’s war on Christianity is a lot like what we see in the Arab world. Islam, like all living religions, is intolerant of other religions. After all, if you are sure your faith is correct and others are in error, or worse, an offense to god, then how can you in good conscience tolerate these false religions? The answer is obvious, which is why all religions, with the exception of race-based faiths, always try to dominate other religions through proselytizing or worse.

Of course, Muslims really hate Jews, because Jews put a lot of effort into pitting one Muslim against another, as part of Israel’s survival strategy. American have been taught that Muslims hate Jews because Hitler, but that’s nonsense. Muslims don’t hate Jews on religious grounds or even geopolitical grounds. That’s part of it, but the real issue is that faithful Muslims believe in unity of the faithful. Therefore, they look at Israel’s geopolitical shenanigans as a war on Islam itself. For Muslims, hating Jews is self-defense.

Now, in the case of this study, assuming it is a serious effort at examining the issue, is they start with the assumption religion is strictly about the super natural. Even more specifically, they narrow religion to Christianity. It leaves out secular religions like Marxism and anti-religions like atheism. Both are mass movements that hold the same appeal for adherents. They trade their identity for that of the group. My bet is if we broadened the scope of religion to include secular faiths, the difference in IQ would be trivial.

I’m fond of pointing out that even the most brilliant people subscribe to magical thinking and superstition. Blaise Pascal, the father of probability, computer science and statistics was a heretical Catholic fanatic. Many of the men who worked on the Manhattan Project were religious Jews, as well as Marxists. J. B. S. Haldane was a communist, were many intellectuals of his day. Belief in the worker’s paradise is every bit as wacky as anything the Bible believing Christians can muster. Belief is not just about religion.

That said, Jason Richwine is probably right. Higher IQ could lead to greater skepticism and therefore lower religiosity. The reason is high intelligence often has a strange humbling effect. Once you get outside the normal range, the genuinely gifted can see the limits of human intelligence more clearly, as they tend to be in frustrating fields like math and science. That’s inevitably going to result a great deal of skepticism about everything, not just religion. IQ and skepticism are probably co-dependent cognitive traits.

A caveat to that would be people with an exceptional verbal IQ and average quantitative reasoning. That would explain the high number of Jewish communists, for example. A people bred for solving complex word games as a part of their status system are probably inclined to accept magic as within the domain of possible answers. People with high spatial, could also be an exception. In other words, the empirically minded will probably be the most skeptically minded, and therefore the least religions, with some exceptions.

None of this really matters much. Most people are not so smart as to fall beyond the line between belief and skepticism. That’s certainly true for the hooting fanatics of the Progressive cult, who fall for every nutty fad that springs from egalitarianism and the blank slate. it much more reasonable to believe a Jewish hippy was the son of God, than to think better pre-school is going to solve black crime. The Left still think you can talk people out of mental illness. To be on the Left means the total suspension of disbelief.

Getting It Wrong

The Left hates baseball, mostly because it is the one sport that has resisted the cultural nonsense we see in other sports. Blacks don’t dominate and there is little opportunity for them to showboat. That vexes the Left greatly. It’s also the sport with the highest percentage of old stock owners and front office people. Throw in the fact it has thrived, despite not being a TV friendly sport and its existence seems like an affront to the ruling orthodoxy. Therefore, the Left is always agitating to change the sport in order to ruin it.

A fine example of this is Major League Baseball’s decision to implement replay next year. There’s no need for this. Umpires certainly make mistakes and those mistakes alter the outcome of games. No one has ever been able to make the case that the overall results of the season have ever been altered by umpire mistakes. If I have to make ten decisions to save my life, one mistake kills me. If I have to make a million decisions and each one may shorten my lifespan by five minutes, any one call is meaningless to me.

That’s the case in baseball where each game features hundreds of small decisions by umpires. According to people who claim to have studied it, they get it right 90% of the time. That does not count the five hundred decisions on balls and strikes. Given that no one can come up with an example of a mistake costing a game, which then altered the outcome of the season, a big portion of the 10% in question either is self-canceling or irrelevant. That and the mistakes often cancel one another out even in the course of games.

There’s nothing to be gained by adding instant replay. There’s also the fact that the games are long enough now. In fact, they are too long. When I was a kid, games last about 2.5 hours, with games often coming it under two hours. Today, games last three hours and in the post-season, they last four hours. That’s too long. Adding another reason to slow the flow of the game just means the games will drag out even longer. Frankly, if you wanted to ruin the game, making the games longer is what you would seek to do.

Frankly, I’ve never understood the fetish to turn sports into battles between teams of robots executing code. No one pays to see an ATM machine perform tasks. Put two chess playing computers on TV and no one watches. People want to see humans make mistakes. That’s the point of sports. The guy who overcomes a bad call to win is a hero, while the guy who lets a bad call ruin his focus is a loser. In baseball, arguing with umps is a part of what makes the game fun. A baseball game is not heart surgery.

There’s an error rate that is acceptable and for 100 years the game has existed within that error rate. The people obsessed “with getting it right” don’t get the point of the game. These are people who have become convinced that making columns in a spreadsheet happy is the point of life. Culture is about celebrating what makes us human. Sport is popular because it reenacts the ups and downs of life. It also features the conflict of men, but in a format in which no one dies in the combat. Replay advocates don’t get that.

The Left Side of the Bell Curve Again

Given the tiny audience I have at this stage of my blogging career, I’m surprised to get any responses to post, but it does happen once in a while. Once I figure out how to work the commenting system here, maybe I will get responses that way, but for now e-mail is the only way to respond. Anyway, this was in the mail in response to my post about the left side of the bell curve. Here’s the text, without identifying the sender:

Putting aside from the odd subservience to IQ as a rational measure of intelligence and ability (not to mention the implicit assumption that IQ is static), its odd that you don’t mention investment in education at all. Seems like the obvious solution is to restructure our education system to acknowledge that consistent and rapid changes in technology, automation, and cybernation–that is, rapid increases in productivity–will require rapid increases in people’s access to efficient methods of learning.

I feel like this is all rather simple: people whose skillsets are made obsolete require access to resources and assets that enable them to acquire new, needed skillsets.

I’m going to assume that English is not the first language of my correspondent and assume what he meant in the first bit is “reliance” and not “subservience.” Relying on IQ as a rational measure of intelligence is good enough for neuroscience so it is good enough for me. We have a tremendous amount of data on human intelligence thanks to a century of testing. Unless and until someone comes up with a better way to measure intelligence, IQ is what we have. It’s one piece of the puzzle, but an important and reliable part.

Now, the next bit is one area where there is great debate. Can you structure a society-wide education systems to lift the average IQ of the population? Maybe. Ron Unz has written some excellent essays on the subject. Richard Lynn is a good recent example of the counter argument. We can throw Jason Richwine in the mix as another recent combatant on the topic of IQ and education. Then of course we have the dismal results from such programs as Head Start, which is a complete failure.

I’m of the opinion that the data and the science support the argument that no amount of education will alter one’s intelligence. I’d go even further and point to the many urban school systems that spend enormous sums on students. If there is one place where we would see a causal relationship between spending on education and educational outcomes, it would be the urban school systems.  Education could have a non-trivial impact on overall IQ, but so far no one has been able to find evidence of it.

While that debate is interesting, it has absolutely nothing to do with the central problem facing modern technological societies. There will always be a left side of the bell curve, no matter how you view education. Not even the most rabid blank slate fanatic argues that we can raise the IQ level of the bottom half to match that of the top half, resulting in everyone being average. Well, maybe George Bush thinks that, given that he once argued that the goal of his education policy as to make every kid above average.

The fact remains that even in Asian societies that lack a significant African or Amerindian population, there are a lot of people with IQ’s below what will be required in the technological future. This assumes automation progresses as everyone seems to think it will in the coming decades. Even if education can make some difference, all you can do is increase the size of the smart fraction. You will still be left with a large number of adults in the labor pool unable to master anything beyond mundane tasks.

The bit in the e-mail about the obsolete getting new skills is the standard refrain from libertarians to my question. It is merely a dodge. Instead of addressing the question, they answer a different, unasked question. Every human society has a subset of people with a very low ceiling. You cannot ship them away to a colony. You can’t send them off to the lithium mines. They cannot be taught to trade mortgage backed securities or teach gender studies at the community college. Every society has to figure out what to do with them.

Having a small percentage of the population, say ten percent, that is useless either because they are dumb or lack self-control is manageable. When fifty percent of adults have no role in the economy because they lack the IQ to do useful work, that’s a problem no society has had to solve. A large population of idle dimwits getting into trouble is a very new problem that advanced technological states will probably have to solve or they will be destroyed by it. That means a very different form of political organization in the future.

Cruzin’ the Stupid Party

I saw this on NRO the other day. Normally I’d have skipped it, as I don’t like Michael Walsh very much. He is one of those comics who likes to borrow material from other people and then pretend he came up with himself. When I used to comment over there, he would lift lines from me without attribution. There’s nothing wrong with repeating stuff you see on-line without attribution, since so much of the good stuff is done anonymously, but when it comes directly from comments in your posts, it feels different.

I don’t really care that much, but it just means that he has the morality of the guys who cheats at golf. Those sorts of people are not obviously dishonest, but you are wise to make sure to keep your wallet in your front packet when around them. They are the type of person that spends all night drinking with you at the bar, before the bill comes he throws down a twenty and heads for the door. They always operate in that space between honest and dishonest, forcing you to be the bad guy who polices their behavior.

Anyway, enough of that. I like Ted Cruz as a senator, but he has no chance to be president or even the GOP nominee. The Republican Party is headed to the dustbin of history, because it is not a real political party. It’s juts a dumping ground for people who reject the other party. A third of GOP elected officials wish they could be in the Democratic party. Guys like McCain, Graham, Rubio, Christie and Paul Ryan look at the cool kids on the other side of the aisle and turn green with envy.

Many GOP officials would switch parties in a heartbeat, but they either cannot win as a Democrat in their state (Graham) or simply took the easy road early on and it is too late to turn back (Christie). Another third just want to keep their snout in the trough and be left alone. They are not interested in rocking the boat or risking their career to do the right thing. Cruz is one of those guys who causes too much trouble, by trying to make a name for himself picking fights with the establishment, so he can never be President.

The thing is, these hacks and hustler did not get into office by trickery. They won fair and square. The majority of Americans want a custodial state. They want the state to make all of the important decisions for them. Anything tougher than picking which breakfast cereal to eat is asking too much. The majority of human history is not some form of servitude by accident. As America fills up with peasants from socialist countries, the center will keep shifting from self-governing republic to technocratic oligarchy.

Marx appears to have been right about this. The natural march of history is toward socialism. He just missed on one key element and that is the ruling elite would be locked in place. Instead of a dictatorship of the proletariat, the vanguard of the revolution becomes a ruling elite that ruthlessly defends their power. In the West, that means a managerial state of highly educated flunkies who do the bidding of a small financial oligarchy. The majority of the public is fine with it as long as they get their stuff.

That’s not to say that Cruz has any intention of challenging that arrangement. He just as much of a conventional politician as the rest of them. It’s that Cruz is a guy who criticizes the system, while benefiting from it, by posing as an outsider. He’s the guy in college, who brings a guitar to a party. He’s not there to help the party or oppose the party. he just uses the party as a prop in his act. That’s ted Cruz. He’s a guy who poses as a critic and outsider, but everyone inside knows he is full of it, so they hate him.

The GOP is not a real party, so a guy like Cruz can cause a lot of trouble for them just by being himself. That’s why I like Cruz. He is the sort of guy to rally conservatives against the party establishment. He’s not the sort to lead a takeover, but he can lay the groundwork for someone else. Maybe one day a real outsider will come along and take advantage of the discontent created by guys like Cruz. Or maybe the party just splits apart from the stress of constant criticism. It’s a long shot, but that’s all we have now.

That Left Side of the Bell Curve

A topic that will become increasingly important is what to do with low-IQ workers in a modern, technological society. For most of human history, there was a demand for most if not all of the low IQ population. Farming required a lot of labor. Maintaining buildings, roads and so forth required loads of guys willing to take direction. Then there was the demand for men willing to dress up and kill men loyal to a different ruler. It’s not that there has been a demand for dumb guys, it’s that there was always some way to put them to use.

Once we moved into the industrial age, manufacturing soaked up most of the low IQ workers, along with middling IQ workers. When the usual suspects decided to sell off the manufacturing base to Asia, retail and services were seen as the cure for excess unskilled labor. We would have an economy based on selling one another insurance and doing each others laundry! Of course that could never work, but it worked for a while as easy credit allowed us to pull forward GDP. Now, it is not working.

The evidence at this point suggests two things. One is that the technological revolution along with an extended recession has changed the approach of business. The old pattern was that businesses hired up in good times and cut staff in lean times. The new pattern is that business invests in technology in good times to get more from the same staff. In lean times they may do the same, but looking for ways to cut staff. In other words, technology is cutting jobs at the peak and the trough of the economic cycle.

The other thing that I think we see is the lagging effect of technology. For 25 years technology raced ahead of what users could use. By the time of the Great Recession, we had an enormous amount of excess technology. The old joke in the 1990’s was that 90% of Microsoft Word users utilized 10% of the product. Few companies utilized 25% of their IT investments. Companies have been sitting on all the tools to automate big parts of the business, but they never deployed the technology. That’s changing now.

Of course, there is something else that never gets discussed. That is the high cost of cheap labor. Government policy has made it expensive for employers to recruits and train the working class of America. On the other hand, government has made it easy to import indentured servants who work cheap. This has become so common, the servants and their masters are now important constituencies. The unemployed white working class is not an important constituency, so no one bothers to speak for them.

This brings me back to the point of the post. We have a lot of people on some form of government assistance. In fact, the government claims that nearly half of all homes have at least one person on the dole. I think we can assume that a big chunk of that number is for retired people. Another big chunk is the poor and stupid. Simply putting them on welfare does not solve the problem. Unless we are willing to have large scale reservations for the low skilled, this economic problem will soon be a very serious social problem.

In a democracy, lots of people with no purpose and not sense of connection to the greater society is going to become attractive to an ambitious politician. That’s always the argument against democracy. Someone always comes along as the champion of the little people, promising to help them as long as he becomes ruler. Most tyrants in human history rose to power on the back of the lower classes. America now has a growing disgruntled class, sitting around waiting for their champion, who will surely arrive one day.

Putting aside the political risks of large numbers of unemployed dumb people, how does a high tech society put these people to use? In a different age, the way to use up extra people was to start a war. These days, the modern military needs smart guys, not dumb guys. Then there is the fact that wars are now vastly more conservative with human capital. Even if we wanted to invade Canada, the war will be fought with robots and drones, rather than infantry battalion. It turns out that war is not the answer either.


Smart Guys With Dumb Ideas

I’ve always been fascinated by the phenomenon of very high IQ people believing utter nonsense. We have been indoctrinated to think that smart people not only believe the right things, they never indulge in crazy fads or nutty politics. The former is obviously the important part of the proselytizing we hear from our rulers. Only dumb or evil people question the Progressive theology. Even putting that aside, most people assume smart people are too smart to fall for crazy ideas, conspiracy theories and so forth.

Way back in my youth I was dating a gal who had a brilliant uncle. The guy worked for NASA and had a PhD in physics. He started out from a working class family and went through college on scholarships and a love of mathematics. He was also very well read in a variety of subjects, which is unusual for math guys. He was also a communist. Every conversation would eventually lead to him ranting and raving about private property and the abuse of the poor by the rich. It was strange hearing a smart guy celebrate Marxism.

Of course, lots of very smart people were communists in the last century. I took a graduate class from a guy who was a Marxist believer. The class was on Marxism, so it worked out pretty well, but it was strange hearing an otherwise smart guy talk reverently about the worker’s paradise. The Cold War was still going so it was even more jarring, especially since he had traveled to the Soviet Bloc. All these years later I wonder how he managed to square what he saw in his travels with what he sincerely believed.

Anyway, I’ve become a fan of Tyler Cowen’s blog Marginal Revolution, mostly because it is that strange conflict of smart people not seeing the obvious.. He appears to do most of the posting, but maybe he has graduate students doing the work. Even though he is in the pseudoscience of economics, he does have a broad range of interests. Being a libertarian economics professor living off the public dime leaves a lot of time to be curious about stuff. Funny how all of the big foot libertarians tend to live off the sweat of others.

Anyway, this post caught my eye today. The first thing was the reference to left-wing blogger Matt Yglesias. I continue to marvel at his ability to fool people into thinking he is smart and interesting. Signalling on the Left is a highly developed part of how they reinforce their faith in Progressivism. Lefties put on the smart, smug guy outfit signalling that they are super smart. Then they go about repeating all the approved bits of the catechism, but with a cheeky twist. Everyone feels good about being in the faith.

A good example of it is the liberal blockhead Janeane Garofalo. She is as dumb as a goldfish, but she has been trained to play make believe on screen. She kits herself in the bohemian outfit, pretends to be smart, while repeating whatever she heard from the TV clown Jon Stewart. Of course, Steward is another great example of the mediocre mind spouting conventional liberal lines in a highly choreographed manner intended to cast him as brilliant. Maybe Yglesias is just doing a form of this that is lost on me.

Anyway, what go me posting about this is how Alex Tabarrok, the other half of the Marginal Revolution blog, starts out great, quickly summarizing that Yglesias post and then his own position on the topic. Then in the last paragraph he veers into the madness of climate change and the need to placate the sky gods. I admit I have a strong bias against the topic of climate change. It’s pretty much just neo-pagan nonsense that fills a spiritual hole for people who fancy themselves as the intellectual elite of the West

That’s the thing. Tabarrok seems like a smart guy, maybe not a genius or even brilliant, but certainly smart enough to be a tad skeptical of climate change. Instead, he is eager to show how deeply he believes in it. It raises the question as to why he, and other above average intellects, feel like they need to repeat this stuff. Maybe it is social pressure or maybe it professional concerns. Politics in the academy can be nasty. Still, simply ignoring this stuff and sticking to safe topics would seem like the better option.

Belief, of course, plays a big role in this stuff. The communist physicist I knew in my youth was not a religious buy, as communism was his religion. For many modern academics, the sub-cultures within Progressivism fill the role of religion for them. Belief is one of those hard to quantify traits in humanity that drives much of what we do. It plays a huge role in social status, which in turn means it plays a role in reproductive fitness. Being seen as pious has always been and important part of establishing social status in settled society.

This is a long way to go to juts point out that smart people often believe nutty things, but it is something that cannot be said enough. People can be wrong and be smart. Even smart people get things wrong. At the same time, even brilliant people need to believe in something and often they believe in crazy stuff. It may be that the lack of a formal, retrained religion for the elites results in smart people searching around for something to fill the void and landing on kooky new age fads and destructive civic religions.


Playing Diogenes of the Blogosphere

This topic over at Marginal Revolution is amusing, mostly for the comments. Much of it brings to mind Steve Sailer’s bit about Occam’s Butter Knife. That is, instead of looking for the simplest answer to a modern social problem, the comments are a hunt for the most complex and least plausible explanation. There’s a healthy bit of solipsism in the post, as well as the follow on comments. They can’t figure out why tough divorce laws evolved in some societies, so they just assume there is no rational reason for it.

The English figured out before most that easy divorce is bad for human society. The people who post and comment over at that site are very bright. Yet, the idea that easy divorce is bad for society has never occurred to them. I guess they have been in a marriage negative culture for so long, they know nothing else. Of course, my taunt about monogamous heterosexual marriage being the best way to propagate the species was a turd in the punch bowl. That upset a few of them.

It also has the benefit of being true. For most of human history, people have understood that strong families make for a strong society. The definition of strong family, however, is not universal and not all people evolved culturally to the point where they can think about things. Africans did not evolve marriage customs like in the rest of the world, as monogamous pairing was never an advantage for the humans living in Africa. In Europe, monogamy is common, which is a reminder that evolution is always local.

As to marriage in the West, it was assumed to be so obvious up to about last week, so no one thought it needed to be discussed. It is like the importance of the sun or the act of breathing. One of those things everyone knows by the time they are five or six years old. Yet, we now live in a time when this has to be explained and many of our brightest cannot accept it. My guess is the typical intellectual under the age of 50 thinks marriage is about having someone to share the bills and a bed. Children are merely a lifestyle choice.

The response to my assertion about the English vexed quite a few of them. Again, a plainly true point that raises hackles. As far as human species go, the English have punched way above their weight. They settled and created five countries in addition to their own. They turned India into a modern state and rescued Hong Kong from the Chinese, which in turn may have rescued China from the Chinese. Their language is a universal tongue. I could go on, but the evidence is clear on that point.

As far as human culture goes, few can claim the same success as the English. Yet, Western intellectuals are hell bent on reversing all of it. That touches on the most taboo of subjects, so there is no point in raising it in a public forum. As soon as anyone starts talking about Jewish influence in American high culture or even something like the Frankfurt School, the pointing and sputtering starts. Even if you are ambivalent about Jews, as I am, you get called an anti-Semite and shut down for even mentioning it.

There are still ways to shine the light on the obvious though and that’s worth doing as long as their are still people worth convincing. The role of the dissident thinker these days is mostly to operate as a subversive, undermining faith in the prevailing orthodoxy. That’s the point of this blog and the point of commenting on other blogs. Throw some sand in the gears, cast doubt on deeply held beliefs, get those who can be saved questioning the dominant culture. Maybe enough break loose to form a useful counter-culture.


Weiner Goes Limp IN NYC

I saw this posted on the former Half Sigma blog. If you were hoping Anthony Weiner would win the democratic primary, it looks like you will be disappointed. There’s a month to go and people tend to forget quickly that one of the candidates is a mental patient, but even New Yorkers have too much self-respect to give Weiner a third chance. The next mayor will be the dreary socialist, the dreary bureaucrat or the flamboyant communist. The New York Times is backing the communist, to no one’s surprise, so he is the pick

The fact is the forces that drive the fortunes of a big city are beyond the control of the political class. A city is measured by its crime rate, public school system, unemployment rate, property values and culture. There’s some other stuff that we judge a city by, but that’s enough. Demographics drive the crime rate. San Francisco is 43% white and 33% Asian. Both groups have very low crimes rates so San Francisco has a low crime rate. Detroit is 80% black and has a crime rate commensurate with the black population.

Schools are similar, but median income pops up here. Areas with a solid middle class composed of families will have good public schools. Areas with a big underclass full of baby mommas and absentee fathers will have crappy public schools. You can’t fix that with good policy. These class and race issues are beyond the reach of government. Even if you gave city government dictatorial power, they could not fix the broken families that make up most of Newark or Camden or Baltimore. Government is not God.

Of course, the local economy is entirely driven by serendipity. If your city is lucky to be based on industry with a future, your city has a future. Cities in New England, for example, that depended upon making shoes or paint were looking good 100 years ago. When the banks sold off those industries to foreigners, those cities collapsed. Lowell Mass was a great mill town into the 20’s and 30’s, but textiles moved South and Lowell went down the crapper. No amount of good government was going to fix that problem.

I could go on, but the fact is the big things affecting a city are out of the reach of politicians, unless they are willing to be immoral or corrupt. For example, Giuliani gets credit for reviving New York by lowering crime. What he really did was ride the financial boom to push out the blacks from Manhattan. The newly rich were willing to look the other way as the cops hassled young black males with the policy of stop and frisk. They also agreed with polices to drive off businesses that cater to the lower classes.

The great credit boom that blew up Wall Street filled NYC with rich people and rich people like a nice places to live. Rudy did fix the police department, but he could not have done it without the support of the army of bean counters filling the ranks of the booming financial houses located in the city. The next mayor will have no impact on the city. As long as the free money keeps flowing and the demographics keep going this way, the next mayor will do just fine, regardless of their ideology. Even a commie will not screw it up.